Identity Politics, the Post-Truth World and Constructivism

By Gordon L. Anderson

The bitter partisan divisions in American politics have several roots: political, economic and cultural.

In my 2009 book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0, I explain how a number of the political roots, like viruses, particularly through political parties, have hijacked the political system. The economic roots of the struggle essentially boil down to whether policies support an economy based on production for all (a win-win market economy) or taking from one group and giving it to another (a win-lose, hunter-gatherer economy).

This article focuses on the cultural roots of the struggle, looks at how deconstruction brought a crisis to post-modern thought, and considers whether a “constructivist” approach can overcome that crisis.

Several articles on the Applied Unificationism Blog have sought to understand the evolution of the idea of “truth.” Dr. Keisuke Noda discussed (July 23, 2018) the correspondence theory of truth, coherence theory of truth, pragmatic approach to truth, existential approach to truth, linguistic approach to truth, and an integral approach to truth.

I followed up (March 11, 2019) with a discussion of how our level of consciousness affects the way in which we understand the truth. I showed a cultural development of theological consciousness, metaphysical consciousness and scientific consciousness in the study of scripture and also argued for an integral understanding of scriptural truth (inherited cultural narrative).

The Death of Truth

However, we now find ourselves in a world where a significant part of society considers we are in a “post-truth world.” The April 3, 2017 TIME magazine cover story, “Is Truth Dead?” was a replica of TIME’s “Is God Dead?” cover story from April 8, 1966.

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The COVID-19 Pandemic and America

COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the U.S. by county, June 10, 2020.

By Ronald Brown

In April, as I sat in lockdown in my Queens apartment, blocks from Elmhurst Hospital, ground zero for New York City’s pandemic treatment, I tuned to radio news hourly, religiously followed the BBC, PBS Newshour, network news, virus specials on television, awaited the morning clap of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal on my doorstep, and consumed articles in magazines.

As of mid-June, the daily death toll in the City is now around 20 (down from a peak of as much as 1,200 per day in April), over 120,000 have died nationwide (6,500 in the borough of Queens alone), shutdowns and lockdowns in the City are just beginning to ease, and many fear a coming second wave of infections, likely a result of lifting stay-at-home restrictions too soon.

I am not the ordinary citizen lamenting home imprisonment, teaching on Zoom, not finding the right foods in the supermarket, and receiving news of friends in the hospital, quarantine or morgue. I am a news junkie, but also a professor with a BA and MA in history from Gannon University and the Hebrew University, an MTS in theology from Harvard, and a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Geneva.

From my balcony in Queens, I witnessed the racing ambulances on Queens Boulevard, scalpers selling overpriced face masks, my downstairs neighbor coming home late at night from nurse duty, and two elderly neighbors peering through covered windows. Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans fought in Washington. With major corporations declaring bankruptcy, unemployment rising close to 16%, pastors and rabbis insisting on their religious freedom to gather their followers, and armed militias unwilling to sacrifice their American freedoms for the common good, I couldn’t help but ponder, “whither America?”

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An Economic System That Honors Our True Purpose

By Alison Wakelin

Confined to our homes by a virus for which we are severely underprepared, the whole world is faced with the inadequacies of our systems.

We Unificationists, in particular, because of our high ideals, are challenged to reassess who we are, what values we are expressing in how we live, and how can we choose the best path to a future that manifests our vision for one united world (see my previous article on this site).

Besides the obvious failures of the healthcare system, from the perspective of a Unificationist, we can see that our current Western economic system fails to serve our deeper purposes in life in many ways. We spend most of our lives in debt, trying to catch up, and figuring out how to pay for healthcare, education, etc., instead of being able to invest time and love in our children.

Given that we expect to live in an eternal world after this, how can we design an economic system that allows for the greatest freedom to make our own decisions, and that enables personal growth?

Humans grow by receiving love, and by giving love, by investing effort, through relationships, by exercising their own responsibility towards living a life of value fulfillment. We grow by living for both the whole purpose and the individual purpose, and especially through investing in our children and communities.

Indigenous communities sustained their way of life throughout thousands of years, supported by nature, and without destroying that natural world. Despite its technological achievements, Western thinking, originating in Europe but now worldwide, has led us to the brink of destruction of the natural world, as now seen in the sudden clearing of atmospheric pollution as human economic activity is forcibly shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Submissions Invited for “Where Do We Go from 2020?”

The Applied Unificationism Blog invites special submissions to be occasionally published between now and January next year of your vision of “Where Do We Go from 2020?”

Emphasis should be on practical steps for the future that the Unification Movement should take on the worldwide, national and local levels after the upcoming commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s birth and the 7th anniversary of Foundation Day.

Theological issues may be discussed, but the focus should be on their practical implementation in society. Submissions from second generation Unificationists are especially welcome.

Submissions should be between 1,200 (minimum) and 2,000 or so words. All AU Blog guidelines apply. Please send your submissions to the managing editor, Dr. Mark Barry, at m.barry@uts.edu. The AU Blog editorial committee makes recommendations for publication and may suggest revisions to the author.

During this period, the AU Blog will continue to welcome and publish a full-range of articles exploring the application of Unificationism to the wider world.♦ 

The Concept of Truth and the Interpretation of Scripture

By Gordon Anderson

In most seminaries and academic institutions, since the rise of critical methods of scholarship, scripture has been studied by applying methods of literary and historical criticism.

Literary criticism views scripture as human writing that conveys moral lessons, values and truths rather than the direct writing of God. Yet, it does not deny the existence of God or imply that the writing is not important to read for attaining a better personal life, a better world or closeness to God.

Historical criticism investigates the historical world around the origin of the ancient texts to better understand the worldviews that shaped the writing and aids dating of writings and events.

Here, I propose the concept of “truth criticism” as a further tool of scriptural analysis.

Theories of Truth and the Interpretation of Scripture

One part of the truth criticism I propose is based on an integral view of truth. On this site last year, Dr. Keisuke Noda described four theories of truth that have evolved since ancient times. These are: the correspondence theory of truth, coherence theory of truth, pragmatic theory of truth, and existential theory of truth. Since each of these approaches describes ways in which something can be viewed to be true, the integral theory of truth Dr. Noda proposes enables us to see in which ways something being studied is “true” and which ways it is not.

For example, historical criticism tells us that the Ten Commandments are very similar to core elements of the Hammurabi Code found on a stone stele in Persia, now on display in the Louvre. This seems to disconfirm the “correspondence theory of truth,” or literal interpretation of the Bible, that these commandments were introduced by a supernatural event in which they miraculously appeared on tablets in Mount Sinai. Those commandments were part of a larger body of knowledge that Moses could have inherited and believed to be essential conduct for a godly society.

The idea that the commandments were emblazoned by fire from a supernatural being could well be a literary device.

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Physical Proof of Spiritual Energy

By Lloyd Pumphrey

There are “invisible” spiritual influences which affect people without their realizing it.

This article considers phenomena that reinforce and may prove the existence of these non-physical forces.

Initially, I intended to research “physical proof of spirit world.” However, after consideration and discussion with others, I realized there is no way to “physically” prove the existence of spirit world.  The only way to prove its existence is to open one’s spiritual senses.

There have been many attempts to demonstrate the existence of spirit world, such as The Afterlife Experiments by Gary E. Schwartz. The major flaw in these experiments was the participation of well-known spiritual mediums.  This is evidence that the only proof of spirit world or afterlife is the testimony of those who can, or have, seen it for themselves.

For the skeptic, in order for an experiment or proof to be valid, anyone should be able to experience it. For example, it is impossible for a male to experience the pain of childbirth.  He can see it, empathize with it, share the experience with his wife, but cannot feel the actual pain of childbirth.

The same goes for spirit world. Most people cannot see or feel spirit world; therefore, it cannot be proven to a skeptic on a basic level.

However, by considering proofs of spiritual energy, we may come to an understanding of it as a building block of the spirit world. Spiritual energy can and has been measured for some time through various means.

External evidence of spiritual energy

Qi is vital energy that is held to animate the body internally and is of central importance in some Eastern systems of medical treatment (such as acupuncture) and of exercise or self-defense. It is the Chinese term for spiritual energy. There have been countless books written on Qi, but some of the most convincing proofs are filmed demonstrations that can be viewed on YouTube.

Several Qi masters, including monks and healers, have allowed themselves to be filmed showing their ability to control people’s movements without touching them, setting paper on fire, turning mud into dust, and treating patients.

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Climate Change and Citizen Involvement

By Rob Sayre

At an October meeting in South Korea, the working group of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a revised report on the Paris Climate Agreement. It makes new forecasts, based upon new data assuming average world temperature rises 1.5 degrees C. compared to 2.0 degrees.

In my earlier article on this blog, “Climate Change: Rethinking the Debate,” I argued that only using one metric was insufficient and proposed others. This article considers the implications of the new IPCC proposals to help people understand them and offer some new thoughts and solutions. It is meant to complement Dr. J. Andrew Combs’ article last week on this site.

Probability vs. prediction

Conveying large and complex concepts and data that include probabilities can paralyze the general public. People confuse these with predictions like the weather forecasts they use everyday to plan their commutes to work and daily life. Probabilities with degrees of confidence do not mobilize people to act. Why is this?

Two cognitive biases come into play for both ardent believers in climate change and those who think it is a hoax.

The first is anchoring, the tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions (usually the first piece of information acquired on that subject). We tend to incorporate how we see an issue in its most simple explanation. This is as true for “deniers” as for “believers.” These labels by themselves say a lot about the veracity of this bias.

Those who doubt humankind’s role in climate change also show another bias: the ambiguity effect, the tendency to avoid options for which missing information makes the probability seem unknown. Very simply, complex probabilities that form the basis for assessing climate change seem fantastic and unrealistic for many.

Everyone is comfortable with predictions in weather, economics and elections to some degree. We accept that, within a margin of error, we are able to order our lives and make decisions. Probabilities, especially when they involve large sets of data, the climate, world GDP, exchange rates, and elections set for a time in the future, can be easily discounted.

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Climate Change: Is It Real? If So, How Much and How Fast? And, What Then?

By J. Andrew Combs

The climate change debate should be a scientific discussion, but it has become more of a political one. The political discourse, along with the money it can bring to grant funding, has infected the scientific community and its objectivity. This makes what is already a complex scientific problem a difficult sociological one.

If science seeks to advise politicians, it must be objective; but objectivity has been to an extent lost, especially among scientific leadership. We must be able to sort out the politics and misinformation from the truth and correct information if we are to make good decisions as a society going forward.

The camps.The basic debate is between two polarized advocacy camps: the “human-made global warming” camp and the “skeptics” camp. The human-made global warming camp asserts our climate is warming due to excessive pollution of our atmosphere with greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) from our dependence upon fossil fuels. And warming is producing sea-level rise and changes in weather patterns that will yield negative, damaging results.

The “skeptics” claim that while there may be warming, it is most likely caused by natural cycles. A key difference is the human-made global warming camp insists on action such as global taxation (e.g., carbon credits) to control greenhouse gas emissions, while the skeptics say our actions are not only ineffective in changing nature, but unfair, as it is poor nations who want cheap energy (e.g., coal burning) to gain wealth and prosperity and advance into the league of advanced industrialized nations.

The increasing polarization of the camps into extreme views — “alarmist” claims of cascading catastrophes (such as offered by a recent U.S. government report) vs. outright “denial” of the human-made global warming hypothesis some skeptics hold to (like radio host Michael Savage) — is unhelpful. So are false assertions that conflate weather with climate, or that justify any unusual event as due to “climate change;”  these attitudes inevitably lead to irresponsible governance.

Just look at California governor Jerry Brown, who laid blame for the recent terrible forest fires in California to “climate change” while many others saw such fires coming due to the buildup of pine and other natural fuels (e.g., the former fire chief of Paradise, who quit a year before the “Camp Fire” because of these dangers that local and state authorities refused to address).

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Adding Tools for Building a New World

By Rob Sayre

One assumption suggested by the Divine Principle and Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon’s theology is that applying the fundamental lessons and tools for the individual and family to ever-larger spheres will produce similar results as can occur on the individual and family levels.

It is my experience and belief that we also need improved tools to build successful extended families, tribes, communities, nations, and a world of peace.

This article discusses a few tools and provides a cursory overview that can aid in building a culture and communities centered upon God. It builds upon my previous article, “Converting Good Intentions into Results.” The tools discussed were used in the development of the Shehaqua Ministries.

First, some introductory quotes on leadership and the family as the cornerstone of society:

“The man of perfect virtue, wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others.” Analects 6.28 (Confucianism)

“The Way lies at hand yet it is sought afar off, the thing lies in the easy yet it is sought in the difficult. If only everyone loved his parents and treated his elders with deference, the Empire would be at peace.” Mencius IVA (Confucianism)

“Family education determines the future destiny of the entire nation. When there are many families living by the principle of public service, the nation will flourish; when there are many families living with a private standard, the nation will perish.” (31:243) Rev. Sun Myung Moon, June 4, 1970

Do Good and Righteous People Create Good and Effective Organizations?

The simple answer is: not necessarily. It’s true that without a quorum of righteous people in any community, organization or nation, creating a good society is a tough slog. New tools, however, make the job easier and more people can be involved in the effort.

The tools of Cain-Abel relationships, leadership and governance rooted in biblical stories and Confucian thought applied to the individual, family, and extended family provide valuable insights into Western culture and indeed the world.

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